Jul 08, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Jason Lee Denton
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Hadley Kennary is returning later this year with her latest EP, Crooked Roots. Taking cues from folk, soul, and early 2000s singer/songwriter pop, Kennary’s latest marries her talent for personal songwriting and pop sensibilities for an EP that moves effortlessly between summery euphoria and cutting turns of phrase.
Following her 2019 EP Habit Kennary returned last year with a handful of singles and has been steadily sharing new releases from Crooked Roots this year. Now she’s back again with her latest single, “Possession of Pain” premiering early with Under the Radar.
Set overtop of shimmering beds of synths and explosive pop hooks, “Possession of Pain” explores pain and grief, both the difficulty in owning and expressing pain and the deep relief found in owning pain together. The chorus is pure pop catharsis, allowing the building tension of the verses to burst outward in glittering rushes of pop energy as Kennary celebrates the simple release of exploring your pain and making space for yourself to grieve. The track perfectly captures the intersection of pop euphoria and raw emotional honesty that Kennary thrives in, balancing the two for a deeply relatable and powerfully catchy anthem.
Kennary explains of the inspiration behind the song, “I wrote this song with my friend, Susan Ruth, here in Nashville. Around the time we wrote it, a couple of people I’d known had passed away within a few days of each other. I was processing my own grief, but I was also struggling with this conflicting feeling of how much I was allowed to grieve. Sometimes it’s hard to let myself fully feel the gravity of a painful situation—my world will go on turning as usual while others’ will be forever changed, so who am I to hurt when so many others are hurting so much more deeply?”
“I went over to Susan’s house for our first co-write, and I was honest with what was on my heart. I’d had the concept/title ‘Possession of Pain’ in my head for a couple of weeks, and from there it all came out in that one session. I remember coming home after writing the song with Susan, and I felt like we’d tapped into something meaningful.”
Check out the song below and pre-save the track here ahead of its full release tomorrow. You can also read below for an exclusive Q&A with Kennary about the song and EP.
This song is the third single from your forthcoming EP. What made you want to release this song into the world before the EP comes out? Did you choose to release it in the summer for a reason?
“Possession of Pain” is something I connected with immediately when it was written, and it still echoes with me in specific moments today. This song is a reminder to me that I’m allowed to feel what I need to feel to heal, and to let other people take that space when they need it. I wanted to release this song ahead of the full EP release because I think everyone deserves space to process their own shades of pain. I wouldn’t call “Possession of Pain” your typical happy-go-lucky/windows-rolled-down “summertime” song, but to me summer means release of some sort, whether it’s a break or maybe the closing of a chapter. Writing this song was incredibly cathartic, so in that way it was its own type of release for me. I hope people connect with it and allow themselves to feel whatever they need to feel when they hear it, too.
This song has such a great vibe to it, counter to the heavy lyrics, and it sounds like it was fun to record in the studio. Did the finished song come out like you imagined it would, or is it totally different? How so?
This was a really fun one to record, and it didn’t necessarily happen like I thought it would. For a meaningful/lyric-driven song, it makes a lot of noise. I love that dichotomy: delicate words + killer hooks (thanks to my incredible band and producers). To me, it really makes for a colorful experience listening to it. We recorded it at Trace Horse Studio in Nashville a few days after I’d released my last EP Habits. After the EP release, plus a release show here in town, I got a really bad cold. We’d planned this whole day of recording around getting the final vocals done, and I kept getting more and more frustrated because I sounded really stuffed up. Finally, after a few failed attempts and an emotional rollercoaster ride about it, I got back in the booth and gave what I could – mostly just to get out my own head and attempt to get back in my body. We ended up getting the final vocals for three songs at the very end of the day. It didn’t happen how I intended it to, but I’m so happy it happened the way it did.
You are a great lyricist—it’s obvious you work hard on that craft. What’s your favorite lyric line in the song? Why is it your favorite?
Thank you so much! I’ve always been a word nerd, and I’m so thankful I get to write for a living. I find the longer I’ve been a writer, the more I try to do with my songs: be the most poetic, the most clever, trying to make the song the best version of itself by crafting the words in the most intentional way I can. On the other side of the coin, as a listener, the lines that hit me the hardest say exactly what they need to say, simply and honestly. My favorite line in this song is the bridge: “Maybe all we can do is hold onto each other.” It’s the last line we wrote for the song, after exploring the concept through verses and choruses, but it sums up the entire thing. When in possession of pain, the best thing we can possibly do for each other is offer support and make space. Plain and simple.
What do you hope the message of this song is to those who hear it?
I hope people hear this song and feel like their feelings are valid. Nobody needs my permission to grieve. Nobody needs anybody’s permission to grieve. Feelings are meant to be felt, and the only way to get through them is to go through them. This song is my personal reminder of that, and I hope it hits other people, too.